I hate contemporary garage rock. And maybe I hate Indie pop or noise pop or whatever terms are interchangeable with nouveau garage, but I’m not really emotionally prepared, at this stage of my life, to give a fuck about something called "indie pop" or "noise pop," so let’s stick to the most commonly used term. I hate excessive delay or reverb on vocals that aren’t Spanish hardcore, actual ghosts, or Perry Farrell when I was twelve. I hate drummers that can’t play and keyboard players that are superfluous. I hate beer and pot and, more than anything else outside of, you know, stuff that actually matters like apartheid and AIDS, I hate jean shorts on men.
I realize that I work for a media corporation that bears the most responsibility for the Murder City Devils and their aesthetic to fall from fashion. You couldn’t look at a Do or Don’t in the early to mid-aughts without some slur on black-haired tattoo boys and their stupid, stupid belts. It was a veritable war on the West Coast and songs about sailors. And, at the time, that made sense. You can hate the current regime when you don’t know who’s going to replace them. And if VICE had had any idea that what would replace white belts and "RIP Everyone" ink would be wave after wave of sub-Blink 182 nice guy inanity, I have to believe that a Terry Richardson portrait of Spencer would be on every cover from 2003 to 2007. You have to believe them…THEY DIDN’T KNOW. How could they? Who could possibly envision that all the the dregs who were put on this earth to play in an Ambulance cover band at Hampshire, become kindly and efficient pediatricians, marry young and die old would be convinced by what I can only assume is a terrifically boring god that playing The Jesus and Mary Chain poorly with the disaffected vocals of Ben Stein was a viable rock and roll choice? And that this was what the kids, in droves after ‘90s-misremembering droves, wanted to hear? Who the fuck could have seen that coming? No one, that’s who.
And no, I’m not going to name names. I may loathe the art of most of these chumps, but they’re people. People who—I bet, if I met—I’d like a lot. Fuck the prevailing winds; I’m not interested in ruining someone’s day on the internet. If you’re in a boring garage rock band and you’re reading this, I’m not talking about your band. Your band is good, the exception to the rule. Thank you for making music. Keep it up.
So, yes, I miss the hell out of the Murder City Devils. I like good shoes and ridiculous belts and musicians that don’t pretend that they just woke up next to the stage so, heck, why not play a couple jaunty tunes. I like ambition and pretension, and anger that far outstrips the immediate circumstances. I also—as we should eventually get to my main point—really like the Riverboat Gamblers.
Riverboat Gamblers - "Comedians"
The Riverboat Gamblers were the only band that was nice to me the last time I was in Texas. All the garage rock bands were snooty and mean and ignored my band and didn’t buy me a single drink. The singer from the Riverboat Gamblers, however, took me to see the Mind Spiders, laughed at my jokes, and bought me way, way too many drinks. Then he went and passed out in his car. See! He even doesn’t drive drunk. The Riverboat Gamblers are role models.
Look, I’m neither a writer for Rolling Stone, nor an intern at Crypt Records; accordingly, when I hear the term “real rock and roll,” I go to the other side of the bar. But sometimes, even the most overused terminology applies. The new Riverboat Gamblers album, The Wolf You Feed, is—ahem—that. Or it’s not. Authenticity can be a sucker’s game. How about this: The Riverboat Gamblers are, like Murder City Devils, contrived in the ways I like. They wear sunglasses at night and blame God and exes for their inability to pay rent. They want life to be an adventure, so they sing songs like it is. And, conversely, Riverboat Gamblers are authentic in the ways that I like. They do what they do because they haven’t any choice. These are not men you’d want providing medical care to your children.
You should like the Riverboat Gamblers for the same reason you should stop listening to modern garage rock. Effort and failed effort are admirable character traits. Refusal to settle for anything in this world and misplaced aggression are admirable character traits. In art, being ugly will always trump being cute and self-satisfied, Jeff Koons and insert-party-pop-garage-band-name-here be damned. Not giving a shit isn’t the same as not giving a shit. Buy the new Riverboat Gamblers album. It has very good songs. The vocals aren’t in the red or swathed in reverb, but give it a try. Who knows, a life free of obfuscation and cheap Phil Spector lifts may suit you.
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